So today was my first shift back at work since I went away to FOCUS at Rogers a year ago. I’m a receptionist at a day spa and for the past year I’ve been on sick leave for my mental health issues.
Today was very different then I thought it would be. Earlier in the week I got retrained and reminded how to do most things, but I was still nervous. The last thing I wanted to do was mess up in front of a client. I was nervous that my first shift was on the longer end of how many hours I should be working. I was also nervous that it was on our busiest day of the week. What if I booked something wrong, or couldn’t help a client on the phone without awkwardly putting them on hold? My anxiety was definitely acting up.
I was looking forward to seeing my coworkers again though. Being a wellness spa, most of my coworkers are the caregiving type. I had some really great relationships last year and was excited to give them hugs and be welcomed back. I was counting on that part to be easy and get me through my shift. But the universe decided to make my shift a teaching moment that expectations aren’t always really.
Now, I’m not saying things went horribly with my coworkers. But things weren’t what I expected. In fact, it was almost like my expectations were flipped. Phone calls, booking appointments, checking clients out… those things were like riding a bike. I only made one mistake (that I’m aware of) in a four hour time period. I was able to relax and smile with the clients. I remembered how much I liked taking phone calls because they made me feel so professional and useful. I was reminded how fun booking appointments can be, it’s like trying to solve a puzzle. What made me nervous was interacting with my coworkers. I was secretly ashamed of the kind of coworker I was during my last months before my sick leave… I had been so mentally unstable and an unreliable coworker. I wasn’t sure how much people remembered or judged me for. I didn’t know what the new people had heard when I introduced myself and they seemed to know me already. I’m sure part of it was just in my head… but it still made me nervous. I know I’d be curious what kind of illness someone had if they had been on sick leave for a year. When I said hi to some of the people I used to get along well with, it felt as if I was a distant memory. I’m hoping in the next few weeks, I begin to get a better idea of where I stand with my coworkers as I build back the bridges that once stood.
I’ve been beyond blessed to have employers who treat mental illnesses the same a physical ones. I could call in sick for depression or mania the same as calling in for a cold. I was given a lot of grace back when I was sick, and it’s already been clear to me that I have a lot of work to do with my bosses and coworkers to show how recovered I am, and that I truly am a better and healthier person now. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m excited for this next step in my recovery.